by Shelt Garner
The key issue when assessing the likelihood of Putin using tactical nukes on Ukraine as the Russian front line collapses is, of course — is he a rational actor? Is he nuts?
The reason is, if you do a strict cost-benefit analysis of doing something so crazy, it just doesn’t make any sense. While, yes, on paper, nuking a few Ukrainian cities would help Russia stop an epic loss of face, the reaction to doing such a thing would be so incredible as to moot the whole point of using nukes in the first place.
The Ukrainians, once they overcame the shock of it all, would be enraged and out for blood. And it’s not like the Russians could take advantage of having used nukes. They would have to do a massive general mobilization to follow up on the use of tactical nukes.
All of this would happen in the context of everyone being very, very mad at Putin for doing such a thing. The risk of civil war or revolution in Russia would increase dramatically.
But I seriously doubt we have to worry about any such thing. Even thought Putin was bonkers to invade Ukraine in the first place, I believe he’s still enough of a rational actor that it’s very unlikely that he would nuke Ukraine.